Eareckson Air Station
|Summary Date: March 24, 2004||Search databases on this site.|
|Status: Active||Database Name: Eareckson Air Station|
|Location: Shemya Island, AK||Latitude: 52.7||Longitude: -174.1|
Eareckson Air Station is situated on Shemya Island, approximately 1,500 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska at the westernmost tip of the Aleutian Islands. Shemya Island is part of the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Archipelago. Shemya Island is owned by the U.S. Government and is under the jurisdiction of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Shemya Island supported a limited fur hunting trade as early as 1824. As one of the few low-lying platforms in the windswept western Aleutian Islands, it was first developed in May 1943 by the U. S. Army, which constructed the existing 10,000-foot runway and hangars for use in the World War II campaign against the Japanese occupation forces on Attu, Agattu, and Kiska Islands. Eareckson Air Station was named after Col. Eareckson, a squadron commander in the Aleutians during World War II. The Air Station activities were reduced following World War II, but the station served as a refueling and staging point on the Great Circle Route for support and supplies during the Korean conflict. When the Korean conflict terminated, activities on Shemya were once again reduced and, on July 1, 1954, the station was declared surplus and deactivated. Facilities were transferred to the Civil Aeronautics Authority in 1955 and subsequently leased to Northwest Airlines for support and communication purposes. The Air Force returned to Shemya in 1958 in support of various Air Force and Army strategic intelligence collection activities. In April 1995, the station downsized once again and was reverted to caretaker status. Most military personnel are now off the island and approximately 50 civilian contractor personnel are operating and maintaining the facilities. Currently the station serves as an early warning radar installation whose principal purpose involves monitoring space and missile activities. Since 2002, the National Missile Defense Program is an active participant on the island.
The facility has a total of 51 Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites. Records of Decisions have been completed for 27 sites, and either have a No Further Action status or are being addressed under the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program. The remaining 24 IRP sites are in various stages of investigation, cleanup, monitoring, or Records of Decision. Hazardous and potentially hazardous substances used and stored at the facility include diesel fuel and gasoline, oil, antifreeze, solvents for servicing and cleaning equipment, pesticides, and electrical transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The Air Force is the responsible party for cleaning up these sites following the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) standards for protecting people, animals, and the environment. DEC oversees the cleanup to assure it meets the State of Alaska standards.
Public Health and Environmental Concerns
The environmental concerns at Eareckson Air Station include:
fuel-contaminated soil and groundwater at several locations on the island such as the fuel handling facilities, former and current fuel storage areas, former fire training areas, former oil/water separator ponds, past drum storage and cleaning areas, and at various tank spills;
fuel-contaminated sediment and surface water at one site, a former fire training area;
chlorinated solvent-contaminated groundwater beneath a former drum storage area;
potential dioxin-contaminated soil at a former fire training area and a wood dump/burn area; and
potential impacts from dump sites, and ammunition disposal areas.
People may be exposed to pollutants through vapor inhalation, direct contact with the skin, or accidental ingestion of contaminated soil or water at these sites. The water gallery, which supplies drinking water for the island, is within a designated well protection area. The drinking water system has an air stripper to remove any chlorinated compounds present from past area activities prior to distribution.
Following the Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study phase of the CERCLA cleanup process and basewide monitoring program, Records of Decisions are being prepared for 11 sites, and the remaining 13 sites require further study prior to the decision stage. The 11 Record of Decisions include: site closure; no further remedial action planned with institutional controls and 5-year reviews; covering or removal and proper disposal of uncovered debris at dump sites; confirmation sampling; long-term monitoring; and operation and maintenance of an engineered wetland. For more information, please see the associated Proposed Plan for Remedial Action below.
All Around Alaska newsletter, July 2003 (PDF 3.16M)
Proposed Plan for Remedial Action, March 2002 (PDF 3.07M)
There are a number of individual "contaminated sites" on the air station, and reports on the status of each is available on DEC's database. We have a glossary available to help you with any acronyms used in the reports.
WWII era photo of Site LF18 North Beach Landfill (US Air Force photo).
Links off of DEC pages
Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development Community Information Summary on Eareckson Air Station (select Shemya Station (Eareckson AFS) from community list).